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Books

Volume I, Issue 20
October 20 - October 27, 1997

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Oh Yeah? Prove It!
A review of Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, And Other Confusions Of Our Time. [2]
Dave McElfresh

Mark Leyner
Our reigning literary prankster's latest novel isn't the one you've been waiting for. [3]
Matthew DeBord

Jamaica Kincaid
In her new memoir, Kincaid confronts the bitter truths about life and death. [4]
Elizabeth Manus

Sophomoric Effort
Sixteen-year-old Ariel Schrag's new graphic novel is a stunner. [5]
Devin D. O'Leary

Erudite Eavesdropping
Two discriminating readers discuss influential female writers in Imagining Characters. [6]
Merrik Bush

When Worlds Collide
A new book examines the clash of Asian customs and Western medicine. [7]
Leonard Gill & James Busbee

Smoke Signal
Here's a book that should be of use to the cigar-chomping crowd. [8]
Emil Franzi

Speed Reader
Suburban Discipline by Peter Lang; Kafaka Was the Rage by Anatole Broyard; Twilley by Bruce Fleming; The Death of the Banker by Ron Cherrow. [9]
Blake de pastino, Jeffrey Lee, Stephen Ausherman and Angie Drobnic

Now What?
Love to read? Need some clever ideas? Our library of resources and staff picks are guaranteed to turn on plenty of mental light bulbs via your electrified eye sockets. [10]

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Talk Back
Our online BBS is just like the Algonquin Round Table, only electronic, sober, and without all the famous people.


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he other day my friend told me he was a skeptic. I said, "What do you mean you're a skeptic? Are you just saying that? What are your ulterior motives? I don't know whether to trust you." That friend has since disappeared from my life, and won't return my phone calls, but the lesson is clear: skepticism is important.

And Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, And Other Confusions Of Our Time proves it. Written by the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the book addresses the many fallacies we humans allow ourselves to succumb to in hopes of finding meaning in our lives. Like the idea that we have a chance at winning the lottery. Or our beliefs in astrology. Or all that U.F.O. and E.S.P. and N.D.E. business.

I know what you're thinking: B.F.D. But you really ought to give skepticism a try. I have, and it's changed my whole life. For example, while reading Mark Leyner's The Tetherballs of Bougainville, I suddenly realized that there are no tetherball stars in Bougainville! Leyner's just putting us on! Who does he think he's foolin'?

And Definition, the novel by 16-year-old Ariel Schrag, isn't really a "novel"! It's a graphic novel, full of pictures about angst and friendship and sexuality and stuff. And I'll bet she's not 16, either -- probably 16 1/2.

Skepticism also enabled me to see right through Imagining Characters, by A.S. Byatt and Ignês Sodré. Yeah, as if they made up all those conversations about Jane Austen and Willa Cather books. They probably just talked and tape-recorded themselves. See? The skeptical mind at work.

I took my skepticism to the limit while reading The Good Cigar, reviewed here by self-proclaimed "real cigar smoker" Emil Franzi. First off, how do we know Franzi isn't one of them "pretend cigar smokers"? No proof is given. Secondly, how do we know Franzi really exists? Just because his name is on a review doesn't mean anything. He could be making his existence up. You never know. You never know.


From The Vaults

Speed Reader
American Pastoral, Pest Control, The Misconceiver, and Kangaroo Notebook. [07-14-97]
Blake de Pastino, Tracy Cooley and Julie Birnbaum

Speed Reader
What to read... and not. [06-20-97]
Blake de Pastino, Angie Drobnic, Jessica English




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